Quick Reference Guide: Electronic Signatures & the ESIGN Act

electronic signatures and the ESIGN Act

We’ve previously covered a general description of what electronic signatures are, let’s look at it from the perspective of the ESIGN act.
For the sake of this post, we’ll first look at what the ESign act is. Wikipedia defines the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act or ESIGN act as, “a United States federal law passed by the U.S. Congress to facilitate the use of electronic records and electronic signatures in interstate and foreign commerce by ensuring the validity and legal effect of contracts entered into electronically.”   
Breaking down the ESign Act
As defined by the ESIGN Act here (more on this foundational piece of legislation shortly), an eSignature is “any sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” If that definition sounds vague or unclear, don’t worry. That’s sort of the idea; it is, after all, “legal-ese”. In plain English, however, the above definition simply “states” an eSignature as a legal concept. That is, its legal definition simply means that it is possible for an electronic signature to carry the same sort of legal “weight” as its pen-and-paper equivalent. That probably doesn’t make too much sense at this very moment. So, let’s take a closer look.
First, there is one critically important point you should understand: In a strictly legal sense, the term “electronic signature” does not refer to an actual signature. Instead, the term refers more broadly to the process requirements (we’ll call them components) that must be met in order for an electronically signed document to be considered legally binding in a court of law.
As far as the law is concerned, a signature is simply one component of an electronically signed document. By itself, it carries no legal authority. In order for an electronic document to stand up in a court of law, all of the components must be present. The ESIGN Act (again, more on this shortly) explicitly outlines these components in an attempt to standardize, well, the process by which an electronic document must be handled so that it carries full, legal authority. Let’s take a quick look at the basic components of an electronic signature.
As we just reviewed, the signature itself is only one component of a legally-binding electronic contract. However, there are four, primary components that you should care about most:

  1. Consent:
    Basically, any individual who signs an electronic document must explicitly consent to do so in the first place. Should an individual choose not to consent to an electronically signed agreement, a non-electronic option must be made available.
  1. Intent:
    In the simplest terms, this means that the signer clearly understands his or her intent to sign the document, and the process by which the individual signed the document was clear and understood from beginning to end.
  1. Verification:
    For an electronic document to be considered legally binding it must be signed by the same person whose signature appears on the dotted line. In turn, most electronic signature solutions have built-in verification methods.
  1. Auditability:
    This is the electronic equivalent of a “paper trail,” (popularly know in the electronic signature industry as an ‘Audit Trail’) whereby each party involved in an electronic agreement (or a legal entity, for instance) can, if necessary, easily access each step of the electronic signature process. You can read more about the anatomy and importance of an audit trail in our post titled “The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified”.

We realize that navigating through the world of electronic signatures can be tricky, so we created “A Brief Introduction to eSignatures”. You can download if for free here.

Border-Free Business: Your Definitive Guide To International Contracts

International contracts for SMBs

My first experience with international contracts did not go so well. The year was 2004, I was travelling and had just recently met up with a very promising business prospect. We had the responsibility of finalizing a housing development project, by creating sandcastles from the toys we found scattered around the beach shore. Oh, did I mention I was only 8? Well, anyway, turns out my new found friend at the beach purposely hustled the only toy shovel right from my little naive hands.
This is my story.
Both of us wanted the shovel, so we decided to figure things out fairly- with a legally binding contract, aka, a game of heads or tails. Now, my new sandcastle developing partner, seeing an opportunity to push their own agenda, said “tails I win, heads you lose”… as you can probably guess, I blindly agreed to these terms. At the time, I didn’t realize the fine print of their offer and grudgingly gave away the only toy shovel. Only years later, lying wide awake at 3am, did I realize how unfair and one-sided that “contract” really was!
Don’t let yourself make the same mistake, because there’s probably a lot more at risk. So keep reading to learn what to watch out for before signing or sending international contracts (and some other useful information too).
International contracts can open up a lot of opportunities…. opportunities that you should take advantage of, like right now. If your business is not, at least, looking to expand into foreign markets, you are losing a huge slice of potential market share. Our economy would not be where it is today without the access and ease of entering into international markets. International trade is a part of every aspect of your, and my, day-to-day life. 
Now, you may be thinking, you work for a small to medium sized business and have no idea how to handle international contracts. Well fortunately for you, we have already done the hard work.
So here it is… Your definitive Guide to International Contracts!

Laws When Doing Business with a Foreign Company

Obviously, international business agreements are substantially different from domestic. For international, you have to be aware of the country’s political environment, economic environment, culture, and legal system. For example, as explained by Business Management, India’s laws protect small businesses and consumers, whereas China’s government strictly controls its business sectors. With this being said, it is very important to know the country’s specific contract laws. Countries that follow common law systems, like the United States, have very detailed contracts compared with countries that follow a civil law system, like Russia. This is an important detail to note, as common law system contracts can be time-consuming and expensive to create.

Sending International Contracts: What to Look for

The first, and most obvious, thing to look for is if your terms are properly stated. Make sure your international contract is easily understandable, free from any grammatical errors and is written in plain English. According to the State Bar of Michigan, writing contracts in plain English can improve the contract’s substantive content, and promote the client’s interests. Furthermore, your contract must follow a logical segmentation- if you can’t follow along with what the contract is saying, your signee won’t be able to either. Along the same lines, you should look out for vague standards, such as “reasonable” or “significant”, as these phrases can cloud your actual objective. Furthermore, read through and remove any implying terms. Make sure everything is explicitly stated and said with intent, especially in regards to price and payments. Making your standards more concrete and clear will make them easier to reinforce, and easier for signees to follow. Click here to learn how to include remote workers and digital nomads into your business plan. Already know how/why you want to hire international workers? Click here.

Receiving International Contracts: What to Look for

Most importantly, you need to read it over and agree to everything stated. Make sure the contract leaves none of your questions unanswered. For example, it should clearly define whether the method of payment is a fixed fee, or based on the current exchange rate (and whether you will be paid in local or foreign currency). It is usually a good idea to have a lawyer look over any international contract before you sign (don’t worry, we’ll explain how to easily find a cheap lawyer a little later on).

Receiving Employment Contracts: What to Look for

Unfortunately, international employment contracts are more technically complicated than standard employment contracts, as employment laws, tax laws and immigration laws affect them. As such, there are several things you should watch out for. First, make sure all of the nitty-gritty details are spelt out and clearly defined. For example, ensure any and all promised benefits are fully laid out. Second, be sure to read every single clause. You do not want to end up in a sticky situation because the “past” you was too bored to actually read what you were agreeing to. The non-compete clause is an important one to note, as, according to Wikipedia, this can prohibit you from working within a competing profession or trade with your soon to be employer. Especially if you’re uprooting your life and moving for this job, you want to be sure you have plenty of opportunities if you ever decide to quit (and that you’re not forced to move back home).

How to Find a Lawyer

All this responsibility does not have to fall on your shoulders; to be safe you should hire a professional to look over everything and make sure things are in order. You might be rolling your eyes and groaning, but hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. Let me repeat, hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. And the added security is definitely worth the minimal cost. You can always ask around for lawyer recommendations, but this can be extremely time consuming and friends/family are not always the most reliable source. Thankfully, there are also online sources available. LawTrades can help you find employment contract lawyers for cheap. Since they don’t have the overhead expenditure of law firms, they are about 60% more affordable – score!

Digital Vs. Paper Signatures

Contracts, in general, can be stressful, and it doesn’t help when you’re sending/receiving them half way across the world. International contracts have the added stress of time and distance. Paper signatures not only prolong the signing process, it also increase the frustration and overall inconvenience (and sometimes the associated costs). Thankfully, the future is here! Digital signatures speed up the process by sending contracts across borders instantaneously. As such, they save time, money and make everyone’s experience as stress-free as possible.
Online eSignature companies like Signority, can be the solution you’ve been waiting for. Compared with digital contracts, paper contracts make about as much sense as sending your mail by pigeon.
Well there you have it, all you need to know about the basics of international contracts. I bet heads your small to medium sized business will exponentially grow from being introduced to international markets, and tails that international contracts are not as hard as they seem.  
Thank you for reading, now please sign the dotted line below to grant us full access to all of your bank accounts: ____________________
To most of you who didn’t sign, I’m very proud of how much you’ve learned. To those who did sign, maybe just stick to hiring a lawyer.
Well, we have given you the basics of international contracts, now it’s time for you to start applying this information into your business strategy and open up a whole new world, literally and figuratively.
Also, check out our recent article on “The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017” to help further automate and streamline your international business deals!
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.

How to Create, Manage and Track Your Legally Binding Contract

Legally-binding-contract-steps-tomanage-create-and-track

We know how important it is to properly create, manage and track your legally binding contract, and fortunately, we have comprised a foolproof step-by-step guide on how to do just that. Read on to learn how to impress your boss and clients with your notable contract skills.
Picture this: you have an incredibly important deal hanging in the balance, all the responsibility of tracking and managing the binding contract falls on your shoulders.
What do you do?
Well, you have two options.
One, you can stick to the basics and stunt your contracts growth and potential. Similar to a seedling being neglected and kept in the dark, no matter how much work and time you invest into making and managing your legally binding contract, it will never be able to grow. We know how dedicated you are to your work, so why work harder for less payoff? Not only is this tedious and time-consuming, but it’s also risky.
Or two, you can break through the old crutch of habit and reinvent the way you manage and track your legally binding contract. This industry is evolving and with the rapid technological advancements that we are currently experiencing, it’s hard not to believe that a completely digital future is just around the corner (check out our recent post on “The Evolution and Future of Document Signing”).
So, like Yoda from Star Wars once said, “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” Similarly, missing the window for automating your sales operations, could mean a long and tedious future.

Allow yourself the opportunity to expand your skillset, optimize your operational and financial performance, all while reducing financial risk. You may be surprised at just how easy this is.

Before you start drafting your legally binding contract  


1. Work with the right people

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so be sure your team comprises of people who are right for the job, match your company’s culture and are on the same page with your company’s mission.
According to Glassdoor’s, Top HR Statistics:
“Employees who understand their contribution to the company’s mission are more likely to bring a positive attitude and commitment to the workplace, which trickles down to company performance at every level.”
So, building a team with passionate individuals, will lead to getting more contacts signed and ultimately leads to your team’s success.

2. Do your homework
This goes without saying, but in order for the seedling to grow strong and sturdy roots, you have to put in the work.
Research the business you are creating the legally binding contract for and the legal background of the business relationship you’re entering. Systematic planning and methodology are what’s required to be successful.
Conduct interviews with the right people and collect any needed information on the present situation, as well as any decisions the outside parties’ plan on making in the future.
A couple of other important points to research are:
Who are you contracting? What steps need to be taken for the company/business to comply with requirements? What are their specific policies and procedures regarding decision-making? Does a decision have to be approved by multiple people? If so, what order? In short, familiarize yourself with the foundation and culture of that organization.
You can also use resources such as the Financial Times, Forrester Research and  Economist Intelligence Unit for general industry and market research.

After the research   


1. Get started on the paperwork

Creating a successful, legally binding contract can be broken into 3 main segments: Drafting, Reviewing and Finalizing.
Drafting
Ask your client to prepare and outline before you draft your contract.
According to RocketLawyer, asking your client to prepare an outline of the agreement as they understand it, not only provides you with a blueprint of the points that are important to them. But also, serves as a good starting point for discussing other critical issues that that they might not have thought of and should be addressed.

If this is not possible, be sure to include all of the important points that you made note of during your initial meetings with your client.
Reviewing
Once you have created your draft based on your client’s outline, begin reviewing the contract to make sure it is precise and focussed. Filter sentences to their basic points and substitute specific sentences with general ones to avoid future confusion.

FindLaw, a website that let’s you find information about legal topics, says that all valid, legally binding contracts have to follow some basic rules, namely, intent to make a contract; a lawful subject matter; an offer made by one party; acceptance of the offer by the other party; and an exchange of something of value.
Finalizing
To ensure that all goes well and you close your deal, prepare to work fast and make the signing experience as easy and pleasant as possible for your client.  
Fortunately, this can be done easily through Electronic Signatures.
Electronic Signatures solutions, like Signority, allow you to upload and securely send documents for eSignatures with a few clicks. This allows for a seamless experience for your client, ultimately avoiding wastage of time and money.

2. Get Tracking 

Tracking your online legally binding contract sent for signature is critical.  Tracking lets you know when the document has been viewed by the required party or if it has been forwarded. There are a few ways to track your contract:
Contract Management Systems
Contract management systems allow you to gain control of most aspects of your contract, from allowing you to access critical information and tracking, to generating reports when you need them.
eSignature platforms
Most eSignature platforms (including Signority) provide you with a tracking functionality, that lets you view crucial information, such as:  when a contract is viewed and how many times it was opened in real-time.
You can set up reminders and notification for your clients, allowing you to get your deals closed faster.

2. Get Paid 
After celebrating your closed deal — hopefully, with your awesome team — now comes the next challenge:

“Payments”.
Life is busy, and keeping track of all the nitty-gritty payment details of your contract can be tedious. We all have a lot on our plates and automating the payment processes can save you a time and hours of confusion.
Online payment and transaction apps such as PayPal and Stripe (we swear by Stripe at Signority), help your clients stay punctual with their payments — with minimal effort from both sides.
Besides making it easy for your clients, these platforms allow you to sync your data with most or all your management systems, to easily generate financial reports and provide you with important data for your analysis.
As the old English proverb goes: “work smarter, not harder”.
Follow these foolproof steps and guarantee that all of your hard work will reap the rewards you deserve. That little seedling will grow into a sturdy and resistant tree that can withstand any difficult contract building/management process.
Also, check out our recent article on “5 Habits of Highly Effective Insurance Brokers”.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.

The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017

The-Ultimate-List-Updated-100-Best-Tools-For-Skyrocketing-Business-Growth-in-2017

However skilled a manager you might be, if you’re looking into expanding (or even just for saving time and money) then you might want to look into some tools for making everything run smoothly and easily for your business. What’s in this list you may ask? Anything from apps to platforms, to websites and analyzers allowing you to coordinate, manage and develop your marketing and business strategies, as well as help in your team’s communication and collaboration.
I’ve personally tested or used most of these tools on a daily basis at either Signority or at previous jobs. The rest have been strongly recommended by other members of the team here as well colleagues from other technology companies. A lot of them also appear in this list from LeadPages last year. So, we’ve gathered it all and made, what we think is an updated list, the list of lists if you will, to go to in 2017 when it comes to tools for explosive business growth.
This list is broken down into sections for you so you can focus easily on what your business needs today. Anything from video marketing, automation, collaboration and more. We’ve also included some of the key reads and other resources we thought were amazing in 2016 and that you should read this year. So, here it is, please read on and share.

Team Communication

Team communication is one of the most important aspects in every line of work, so you have to definitely encourage and make it easier. The best apps we found for this are:

  1. Slack – it’s the ultimate tool for team communication. You can find your team and set up common communication channels, as well as one-on-one’s. The best part of it is the integrations into almost any other tool that matters today. It will make communication with your team and with your tools a lot easier and effective. It’s heavily used here at Signority as our central hub of comms between teams and it’s also where all our apps post status updates, making our daily life at work a lot easier.If you didn’t know, Slack is considered by many one of the fastest growing startups ever, having launched in August 2013 and with a current valuation (as of Apr, 2016) of over 3.8 Billion dollars. They are doing many things right. If you’re into making software, we suggest you read up on them and learn.
  2. Trello –  divided into different cards for each phase of your project and task related to it, Trello makes for a reliable and organized way of keeping in check with your team and the success or failure of each task. Recently acquired by Attlassian for $425 million dollars, it is unclear to us what will happen to it. Asana (read below) recently featured an update to include cards taking much of the functionality of Trello inside it.
  3. Invision – if you have a designer in your team, or better yet, a design team, they should be using something like the Invision app for team collaboration. It helps make the entire design process better and it allows people to collaborate around designs easily and faster than before. They recently released Boards which adds to it. They have free plans so there’s no excuse not to use them to improve your design workflows.
  4. Asana – as its own website boasts, Asana makes it possible for you to get projects from start to finish either with tasks and projects, or with conversations and notifications. We use this at Signority for tracking all of our work outside of engineering and I’ve been a fan since the early days in 2009.
  5. Realtimeboard – A virtual whiteboard for your browser. Very neat tool to allow collaboration with your remote workers, clients or partners across the web. Lots of ready-made templates to start collaborating online.
  6. Basecamp  – Its main focus is in getting everything organized and in one place, reducing the possibility of important files getting lost in the haste to reach deadlines. This is like Asana really and both have great features that set them apart. Here’s a handy comparison between Asana vs Basecamp from Capterra.
  7. Weekdone – Weekly employee progress report for managers. It focuses on showing everyone in your team, goals and tasks. The premise is that transparency and collaboration around people’s goals ensure alignment and success.
  8. Join.me – offers screen-sharing, video conferencing and online meetings, reforming and presenting them to your team in the most comfortable of ways. There’s a plugin that needs to be downloaded to run but once you get this done you are usually set. It’s pretty easy to use even for people that are not used to software and cloud apps.
  9. Attentiv – Attentiv claims to be the ultimate decision-making and team collaboration platform. You can start a team chat, submit your input anonymously, seamlessly switch between topics, and get real-time feedback.
  10. Projects by Growth Hackers – made for teams and making them focus on the most important tasks without getting sidetracked by all the mental cluster. This was a mystery last year but it’s finally out. It is relatively new and I haven’t personally used it yet but it’s trending among the tech circles. It’s got Sean Ellis behind it who is the father of growth hacking (the term at least) and so if he’s behind it, you can expect quality.

Marketing

Next one, right along with team communication is marketing. We all know that one of the keys to making a great product or service sell is marketing it well. Tools and sites that can help your business with this particular task include:

Communities/key blogs:

  1. Inbound.org – Inbound Marketing is a community of inbound marketers that share new ideas, events, jobs, and more.
  2. HubSpot blog – They know how to do inbound marketing well and often have quality posts.
  3. GrowthHackers –  Powerful collaboration, ideas and learning resources for marketing and growth teams.

Apps and tools:

  1. Buzzsumo – it’s the most used tool for marketing your content and SEO campaigns. This tool allows you to keep track of your content and how it’s doing online (shares) as well as that of your competition (or any site for that matter). It allows you to find influencers on any particular keyword or topic and it’s very easy to use. They have a free chrome extension that allows you to see the number of shares on any website you visit.
  2. PageCloud – They claim to be the world’s most innovative website creator. If you’re like most small businesses you probably have “updating the website” marked as an outstanding task for a while. PageCloud will make the entire process of creating a website seamless and easy using their drag and drop technology. You open up a browser and start editing your website on the fly, it’s easy and fun. See what TechCrunch has to say about them.
  3. SurveyMonkey – The leaders in online form and web-based survey solutions. They have been around for a while and offer a robust tool for any of your data gathering needs. We recommend you survey your customers often and get feedback on how your business can improve.
  4. ReferralCandy – We’ve used this in the past with great results. If you would like to leverage your customers to sell more, consider starting a referral program that rewards people for their actions. This particular tool is great if you have an online store and do e-commerce in your business. By the way, here’s a great starter read on referral marketing do’s and don’ts.
  5. Curated – as its namesake suggests, this app helps you put together an appealing newsletter or weekly digest so you can engage and keep your community interested and informed.
  6. Canva – creative and engaging, Canva lets you build stunning visuals for your business proposal and everything you might need, all with the power of drag and drop. You don’t have to spend big bucks on Adobe software for image editing anymore. If you need to add a quick headline or filter to an image, this can help.
  7. SimplyCast – it’s the right tool for automating marketing campaigns. They cover anything from email, SMS, forms, live chat, surveys and other ways to do online marketing. They focus on small and medium enterprises providing great value for your money.
  8. The Stocks – Royalty free stock photos to use in your emails, website and other marketing collateral. This site aggregates some of the best free stock photo sites under one umbrella making your photo searches a breeze.
  9. Moz – the right place for SEO and digital marketing insight. Moz is the SEO toolset that’s got it all: keyword research, link building, site audits, and page optimization insights, in one. Most importantly, if you’re just getting started on SEO, their blog and Connect Community is an excellent resource for learning the ropes. They have a free browser plugin that allows you to see the ranking of any web page you are on along with other insightful information.
  10. Gnowit – Real-time media monitoring for your business that uses artificial intelligence
  11. RivalExplorer – Look and search for all emails ever sent to people by your competition.
  12. HotJar – A very comprehensive tool that gives you analytics on your website as well as an in-depth view of how your app or website is used. This means visitor recordings, heat maps and even in-website surveys.
  13. Usertesting – Let’s you get out of those discussions with your marketing team about what you think it’ll work and instead it puts it to the test. Select the target audience that matches that of your business, configure a few test plans (what you want them to achieve) and then wait while the site matches your project with potentially hundreds of people. Once they go through your site, you’ll be able to see how they interacted with it giving you tons of useful information you can use to improve your site.
  14. 5secondrule – Similar to Usertesting, this tool allows you to query a pool of unknown people to get their real feedback. A five-second test is great for understanding and measuring people’s first impressions of your business/website/brand.
  15. Klipfolio – The ultimate business dashboard. Monitor the health of your business while this dashboard connects to potentially all your online tools, giving you a full and unified picture of your business.
  16. Rare.io – A smart email marketing platform that works best for online businesses that do e-commercee. It connects with Shopify (below).  
  17. LeadPages – Generating landing pages and lots of them to test out your creative and content are some of the great ways to improve conversion rates for your business. LeadPages is one of the leading tools out there that allow you to do this quite easily.
  18. SumoMe –these guys arm you with a suite of fail-proof, site-growing solutions to help you get more traffic, build a following, and track your success every day.
  19. Optimizely – offers you the possibility of heavily experimenting to keep up with every whim of your users’.
  20. LeadChat – live chat agents 24/7 might be best for those of you whose service is time-dependent and your business’ success depends on how swift your response to a query is.
  21. Import.io – extracting info from web pages can become a great source of raw data that can be later re-purposed and presented to help you come to important conclusions and decisions.
  22. Datanyze – provides you with insight based on your technology choices. Especially if your business is tech based, this might be just what you need.
  23. ConvertKit – if you’re a professional blogger, this is the right email marketing tool for you.
  24. Crazy Egg – website analytics presented to you in a visually clear and understandable way. Heat maps for most clicked locations in your site? Check!
  25. Drip – is another automated email marketing tool that help you build workflow and infographics for your emails and newsletters.
  26. FullStory – offers detailed info on your visitor’s behavior while on your site.
  27. Shopify – We couldn’t just leave out the biggest software company in Canada that is changing the world of ecommerce, and another Ottawa-based business like us. If your business does ecommerce or even as a point of sale, please check out Shopify to boost your sales. Their blog is also another awesome resource for small businesses out there.

Social Media Marketing

With social media’s far reaching impact, it has become a given for any serious business to have its own presence in it. You should check out:

  1. CoSchedule – Plan, organize, and execute every content marketing project in one place. If you are into inbound marketing (which you should) then having a healthy content calendar and plan in place is key to your success.
  2. BuzzStream – A great tool for influencer and blogger outreach. It lets you track email opens, save templates and keep organized lists for a productive outreach campaign.
  3. Buffer – makes it super easy to share any page you’re reading and schedule posts to go out from all of your major social media channels.
  4. Quuu – lets you handpick social media posts  that interest you and your followers, great tool to keep quality content in your social media feed.
  5. RaffleCopter – Giveaways, if done well, can often bring your business a lot of awareness and even leads. Rafflecopter lets you run online giveaways and embed them on your site without an IT.
  6. Grammarly – checking your text for grammar errors, typos and punctuation so that your content is flawless before posting it on all your social media account.
  7. Awario – Know thy enemy. This app helps you scour the web and find out what your competitors are posting, as well as mentions of your business of course.

Video Marketing

  1. Loom – Great tool to create short but impactful videos from your browser. Stop making “one-pagers” that people won’t read and start creating quick videos that explain what you do. It also has webcam and screen recording capabilities. Free chrome plugin available.
  2. SmartPixel – A video capture and editing software that is both easy and affordable.
  3. AlltheFreeStock – Free stock videos to include in your production. They also feature free stock photos.
  4. VideoScribe – High definition whiteboard like animation video

Business Management

As a business owner/founder/CEO you need to get everything together and manage your business in the best way possible. Where to turn to for help?

  1. Recurly -enterprise-class subscription billing management for thousands of businesses worldwide
  2. AlignCommerce – Forget about wire transfers. Use AlignCommerce for making global payments from the comfort of your browser. No accountants needed.
  3. HubDoc – A personal favorite. It’s a tool that automatically collects receipts from all your tools and sends them right into your accounting software of choice. No more chasing receipts or getting nagged by your accounting team.
  4. Xero – online accounting software for your small business
  5. Chart.io – cloud based data exploration and website analytics for everyone, made easy.
  6. TradeGecko -Inventory management software for eCommerce and wholesalers
  7. Segment – collecting data from your customers and sending it wherever you need it.
  8. Google Analytics – analyzing website visits and tracking every change for you.
  9. UpCounsel – easily hiring attorneys for your business’ needs.
  10. Toggl – timetracker and employee sheet software.
  11. Zirtual – virtual assistant service matching busy people with dedicated assistants.
  12. Signority – bit of self-indulging, but yes, we provide you with secure, easy-to-use and legally binding electronic signature services.
  13. DropBox – File storing in the cloud that allows sharing, editing and distributing. It has advantages over Google Drive, mostly around organizing files and presenting the file system. If your business is not on the cloud and uses Microsoft servers and software to run locally, but you need a cloud storage solution, Dropbox may be for you
  14. RescueTime – Time management software for staying productive
  15. WaveApps.com – Create and send professional invoices, receipts and more
  16. Versature – If your business requires lots of phone interactions, look to Versature for a solid VOIP system
  17. Flyta – Smarter and cheaper international shipping. No joke.

Customer Service and Retention 

Providing your customer with the best service is in most cases one of the top priorities for both small and medium sized businesses, as it is for big-sized ones. How to step up your game?

  1. SatisMeter – helps you collect customer feedback and eliminate churn while accelerating growth
  2. Intercom – makes communication with your customers easy. Live chat, customer support, they have everything you need.
  3. Zendesk – creates software for managing your relationship with your customers.
  4. UserVoice – decide on a roadmap for your product, while backing every decision with qualitative and quantitative feedback from your previous customers.
  5. GoToMeeting – offers you online HD video conferencing, making your communication that much easier.
  6. Typeform – creating online, decidedly human forms. Check out some sample surveys here!
  7. Customer.io – triggers multichannel messages according to customer response to each of them.

Outsourcing

When you’re short of staff, you might want to look into taking in freelancers or temporary employees. If you don’t know how to work with remote workers, we wrote a post that outlines some tips. Some of the best platforms where you can find them are:

  1. Upwork – was built after the merging of oDesk and Elance, the first and second biggest freelancing platforms on the internet. The result? Getting work done!
  2. Crew.co – Hire top of the line creative freelancers. Based out of Montreal but with freelancers across the globe.
  3. Scripted – almost exclusively for writing, editing and proofreading, you can get some great writing works out of this site.
  4. Fiverr – offers small freelance services for only $5. Might be just what you’re looking for, and at a cheap price at that.
  5. 99designs – find and work with the best graphic designers online. Logos, websites, ads, what have you, they do it!
  6. PeoplePerHour – here you can find freelancer for things like translations, writing, designing and programming.
  7. WriterAcess – connects you with all screened, US-based pros, star rated by customer reviews.
  8. Guru – you can either look for jobs, or post things you need done and get offers.
  9. Gun.io – the place where you can look for verified freelance developers.
  10. Gigster –they bring together the best developers, designers, and product managers from Silicon Valley and the world to form elite development teams.

HR, Employee Engagement & Appreciation 

Another important thing for the wellbeing of your team is keeping your employees happy and interested in what they are doing. To help you with that, take a look at:

  1. Fortay – this is a culture-fit screening and matching platform for hiring managers that improves hiring and engagement for growing companies.
  2. TinyPulse – gives leaders the tools to improve culture, employee performance, and engagement.
  3. AnyPerk – gives you the right solution so you can make your employees happy with coupons, free passes, etc.
  4. Kin – manages employee files and time off in a web-based exchange which is enjoyable for your team.
  5. 15Five – performing lightweight performance tests for bringing out the best in your people.
  6. GlassDoor – platform that lets you know your worth as an employee.
  7. Zenefits – all-in-one platform that helps you manage your employees and gives you tools, insight and inspiration for dealing with each of them.
  8. Kudos – gives your employees recognition and feedback.

Automation 

  1. Zapier – One of our favorite tools from this list. It allows you to hook up pretty much every other tool together and create awesome automation that saves you time and money.
  2. Process.st – Simple task and workflow automation. Similar to Zapier but different. Here you can create checklists that can then trigger automation tasks. Very cool.
  3. Prospect.io – Switching gears a bit from general business automation to sales automation, we have prospect.io which is a cool platform for modern sales teams. It helps you find leads on Linkedin, prospect and send drip email campaigns in a few minutes
  4. RevealBot – Set up automation rules for your Facebook and Instagram ads and let the bot manage and improve your ad performance for you
  5. MixMax – Track, automate, and enhance your emails with the essential productivity suite for Google Inbox.
  6. Narrow – works by interacting with Twitter users that are talking about subjects relevant to the audience you want to attract.
  7. IFTT – is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”

BONUS: Resources & Good Reads:

There is so much content out there to make you productive and most importantly to help you and your business succeed. We only posted a few of the big guides that are must-reads below. Keep following our blog, as we’ll be posting more of these throughout the year.

  1. Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation with Zapier by Process Street
  2. Advanced guide to content marketing by Neil Patel
  3. Content marketing Playbook by Hiten Shah
  4. A beginner’s guide to social media by Moz
  5. The Small Business Blueprint to Marketing on Twitter by Shopify
  6. The CEO Guide to Customer Experience by McKinsey
  7. Small Business Online Marketing Kit by HubSpot

So there you have it. Our ultimate list of tools, apps and resources to skyrocket your business growth this year. Would love to know of any other tools you think are great for SMBs that we missed. Just drop us a line at hello@signority.com and we’ll make sure review and include it next time.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s eSignature plans for 14-days.

How To Include Remote Workers and Digital Nomads in Your Business Plan

How To Include Remote Workers and Digital Nomads in Your Business Plan Office Movement

When I got my first job as a freelancer, while living in a country where most people don’t know what remote workers are, the first words from my backing system (aka my parents) were: “But that’s not even a real job”. What’s most important, I was skeptical of the process myself. However, as a student with lots of free time and a desperate wish for financial independence.
I was scammed at first because I barely understood the process, how to handle remote clients, how the communication needed to be structured and more. This was discouraging and almost made me stop there. So, while feeling like an errant child and not wanting to admit to failure, I got another freelancing gig and kept moving forward on a path to learn. This perseverance paid off and led to eventually doing many freelancing gigs over many years, and most importantly led to being part of teams across the globe (from places like Brazil, London, Australia, Canada), working successfully and having fun doing so.
If you don’t get discouraged while you’re getting the hang of remote working, you can do all kinds of stuff with your life when you get out of work. You can work in the comfort of your own home, at cafes, parks, basically everywhere a laptop is allowed. Most importantly, especially for young people: you can travel the world!
Now, if you are the CEO, founder, director or person responsible for managing and including in your business plan digital nomads and remote workers, then consider the following feedback from a previous digital nomad (before finding my team here at Signority!)

Remote workers have opportunities

Despite what company you own or manage, there may be many opportunities for hiring digital nomads that you haven’t thought of yet. Many creative people are basing their whole activity on the net – photographers, game designers, writers and editors, but what is really flourishing is game designing and programming. Still, not to be left unmentioned are technical people in engineering, designing, consulting and marketing.
Given the myriad of new and great team collaboration apps for communicating and managing tasks such as Slack, Asana, Trello and even TeamViewer, the process is getting easier every day. Programmers are using sites such as GitHub and BitBucket to collaborate on projects, and writers are polishing up their WordPress and SEO skills to get ahead of the game. More and more each day, Skype is used to communicate with team members around the world. What this means is that many fields already have a system in place allowing and facilitating remote working. Find yours!

Digital Nomads do their research!

It is a given that remote workers will have to read every sentence of contracts and terms and conditions they agree to. There are many cases where they don’t, which would make it your job to incite them to. This is extremely important for the job process, so to ensure that neither of you are caught up in loopholes. Double check everything thoroughly! Read everything there is to know about the payment process, the monitoring of the job quality, or periodical checks while it’s ongoing. While this doesn’t mean to treat people as if they’re out to get you, you have to remember that working remotely is just like the traditional system of work. You’re still dealing with people behind all those emails and check-up chats. Ensuring you have a sound contract to start from is a good foundation and ensuring it gets signed before committing work just makes sure there are no surprises down the road. A lot of our customers use eSignatures for the purpose of onboarding employees and remote workers to facilitate this workflow.

digital doesn’t mean humanless

If you are a manager making space for remote workers and freelancers on your business plan, you have to remember a very important thing: at the end of the day, you are still dealing with people. If you communicate only through texts or emails, it is very easy to forget you are not talking to a very efficient robot on the other side, and that is a valid point whether you are the manager asking for quality work from a freelancer, or if you are the freelancer doing it.
While working as a freelancer myself, I found myself guilty of treating one of my bosses as this very timely and robotic entity, where I could submit my documents and get feedback on in a few hours. Aided by the fact that he was not the most conversational person on earth, the work hours became very easily tedious and annoying. Many people are not social butterflies in today’s workforce, however much we try to make ourselves look so. In the manager’s position, oftentimes you will have to encourage people to express themselves more easily, or if you make a pitfall into “robotville” you will have to remember that the people you have hired have personal lives, which while not disrupting their work, should actually have to be lived at some point during the day. You can’t expect them to work or even be online 24/7.
How you choose to do this is still your choice, it doesn’t matter if it’s through Skype calls, group pictures of the team working in HQ, or even weekly updates of the social life within the company: parties thrown, events attended, you know the drill. Just remember, workers, digital or not, are still people and a happy worker is definitely more productive!

Internet connections can still be a pain in 2017!

When remote employees are travelling the world and working for you at the same time, you will not only have to change meeting hours left and right because of flights and all the rest: you will have problems with slow connectivity. There are still places, much preferred from those who like to work while lounging on the beach, in which broadband connectivity is spotty, slow, and overall, horrible.
It can set back the progress of your project, and you will have no one to blame. However, this is an easily controlled problem. While most freelancers usually make sure the connectivity is a priority wherever they decide to stay on their trips, things happen. So what’s best is to leave a certain amount of security time, usually a day or so, during which you’re sure to get the completed work successfully.
Additionally, digital nomads should make sure to have an established cloud backup for everything, with helper tools such a DropBox or Google Drive, electronic signature services and even online editing tools, which makes it possible for them to pack up their office and go to the coffee shop down the street to complete the task you’ve given them with no hassle at all.

Office implications

If you are a big company with many offices, having one or two freelancers on your team won’t make too much of a difference into the overall available space in your floor. When you’re small- to medium-sized, however, it can be truly and greatly beneficial for you. You can be a part of a team with 15 or more employees, and only have to rent an office for two people, or even better, you can have a whole team of remote workers. Companies like Buffer do this well. With remote offices, as a manager, you will have to work on the office culture you want your company to have. While digital nomads tend to avoid office gossiping and similar phenomena, they also tend to communicate less with other team members, especially if they don’t have to collaborate directly on projects. Everyone can benefit from a little “water-cooler” conversations, even if it is only to make plans for drinks after work hours. This is one of the reasons why traditional workplaces are still going strong.

Conclusions

As every new team member, digital nomads and freelancers come with their own set of problems in management and on the other side, benefits. What you have to decide is how does it all work for your company, after careful consideration of all the positives aspects and downsides.
For more, read up on this article by the Globe and Mail on how to work with Freelancers.

The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified

The Anatomy of the Audit Trail and its Electronic Signature Implications

An audit trail can be the deciding factor between a valid and invalid electronic signature document. Going by the actively surging electronic signature adoption rates and growing number of online businesses, there’s no arguing that eSignatures are here to stay.
Since eSignatures are soon to be the new normal, we thought we should discuss what an audit trail is and why it’s an important part of an electronic signature.
You may be familiar with the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures, in case you’re not, an electronic signature is information in electronic form (can be sound, symbol, process, etc.) that is associated or attached to a document. This means that as long one can demonstrate that the signature is associated with a person and that there was intent to sign, everything is legally binding and accepted.
A digital signature is actually a form of electronic signature that uses an encryption algorithm that helps validate who the signer is. It also ensures that the document cannot be tampered with, as the signature becomes invalid if the document is changed after signing.  You can read about the differences between electronic signatures vs. digital signatures here.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get to what an audit trail is and why it plays an integral part in the process of validating of a document.
Technopedia, the IT education site defines an audit trail, in the context of information technology, “as a chain of evidence in the form of hard or electronic business transactions or communications resulting from business processes, functions or programming executions.”
In other words, an audit trail is a detailed list of critical data points, pertaining to the transaction, that are recorded and reported. These data points help verify the validity of the transaction.
In terms of Electronic Signatures, an audit trail helps keep track and reports user data, furthering the validity of the signature process. Most, if not all serious eSignature vendors out there — including Signority — provide an audit trail with every electronic signature transaction.
Below is a list of important components we display in Signority’s audit trail:

  • Unique Document Title
  • Secured seal (Digital Signatures)
  • Email Address Of Signers And Viewers
  • The IP address of the involved parties
  • Documents viewed by each signer
  • Signers consent to terms of service
  • User authentication: SMS and Email
  • Signature creation (by each signer)
  • Party agreement to / acknowledgement of document
  • Document downloads after signing
  • Signer’s Status
  • GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

For the sake of avoiding any form of confusion, let’s go over what these components mean and what value they add to the entire electronic signature validation process.

Unique Document Title

Breaking down the Audit Trail

Unique Document Title

A unique document title is the unique file name of the document that was originally created by the document creator. The unique document name can be found in the first page of Signority’s audit trail.

Secured Seal
Secured seal (Digital Signatures)

The secured seal is native to Signority’s digital signatures audit trail, the Secured Seal is both “Tamper-proof” and “Digitally Encrypted”. Meaning that, if the audit trail document was tampered with or edited in a third-party software such as Adobe’s Photoshop, the seal would immediately break and be considered invalid.

Signority’s Secured Seal is only available with our digital signature plans. In order to make digital signatures available to our customers, we use a Hardware Security Module (HSM) provided by Notarius to help store and manage the digital keys used in the digital signing process.  

Want to know more about digital signature? Check out our post on the difference between electronic signature vs. digital signatures to learn more!

 

Email Address Of Signers And Viewers

The audit trail records and displays the email addresses of all parties involved, which can be either signer or viewer.

  • Signer: Signers’ are users who are required to sign a particular document. A signer could be a primary signer or a witness.        
  • Viewer: A viewer is a user with view-only capabilities.

IP address of user
The IP address of the involved parties

According to IP Location, an IP address or Internet Protocol is A unique address that computing devices such as personal computers, tablets, and smartphones use to identify itself and communicate with other devices in the IP network.”
In terms of Signority’s audit trail, the IP address associated with a particular signer or viewer, at the time of viewing the document is recorded and reported — adding an extra layer of validity to electronic signature documents.


Documents Viewed By Each Signer

The Documents viewed by the signer or viewer is displayed in the name section in the Audit trail. The audit trail also displays the exact time the document was viewed.

GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

GUID’s of Globally Unique Identifiers, are defined by BetterExplained as “Large, enormous numbers that are nearly guaranteed to be unique.”
They usually look like this:
fa06cc7a-8a32-44c2-9e4d-2192818ab076
At Signority, every document created is assigned a Globally Unique Identifier and can be viewed in the audit trail.

Signers consent to terms of service

Signers consent to use terms of service, refers to the signer or viewer agreeing to abide to the rules in order to use services provided by Signority.

User authentication: SMS and Email

Verifying the identity of a user before granting access to secured information is the main intention of the User Authentication feature.
With Signority there are two additional methods that can used to verify signers and viewers — i.e. SMS and email — when email and /or SMS password authentication is turned on by the user, Signority sends a randomly generated unique code to the recipient. The code is required to access the document.
The type of user authentication used is displayed in the “Authentication” section of the Signority’s Audit Trail.

Signature creation (by each signer)

The Signature Creation section is a critical component of the audit trail, it is the original signature of the required parties.
At Signority and most other eSignature providers, a party’s signature can be created by:

  1. Using a touch pad/screen or mouse
  2. Typing their signature using a keyboard
  3. Uploading a scanned copy of their signature

 

Document downloads after signing

Once the document is finalized by all of the signers, all parties involved are notified via email with an attached copy of the finalized document for safe keeping. In addition, the audit trail continues to track document downloads after signing and is updated live.

Signer’s Status

The signers status reflect the final action taken by all required signer’s, the status can be: “Rejected”, “Waiting to Open”, “In Progress”, “Finalized and “Viewed” — depending on the action taken by the signer.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.

Pricing Transparency and Why You Should Care

Pricing transparency and the cost of electronic signatures @ Signority

For many, the price of a product or service is merely a number on a screen that they need to pay when they want to make a purchase. But the cost of this essential product or service is much more than that; it is made up of many different costs that, together, constitute to the final price you see.
In early 2016, we decided to begin focusing on meeting the digital and eSignature needs of SME’s — reflected here in our Manifesto (http://www.signority.com/manifesto/). Soon after, we adjusted our pricing to make our solution more affordable to all growing businesses.
We believe in transparency and the fact that you should be able to see what every dollar we receive from you is currently spent on, so you can understand our pricing and why it is what it is. After all, our solution allows organizations to conduct daily business transactions with people across cities and countries with signers in remote locations. This means that trust is a core component that must be present in the business relationship, just like with any other relationship. You should be able to trust the platform you use for document signing just as much as you trust the people you do business with.
So following in the footsteps of Buffer — a tech company out of San Francisco that is doing great things in the world of social media, we made a collective decision to push for transparency in our pricing, starting with this post.
As we were closing the book on 2016, we took a look back at what exactly every Dollar we received from subscriptions was spent on and broke it down for you below.
Operations and IT costs

8% or $0.08

Signority’s operations & IT costs include all that is required to keep us going daily: Dollar Breakdown White Blog

  • Office supply costs
  • Rent
  • Repair and maintenance cost
  • Utility expenses
  • Accounting and legal fees
  • Bank charges
  • Servers
  • Hardware

 
Marketing costs at Signority

11% or $0.11

Required to increase our brand awareness and reach out to businesses like yours

  • Online: AdWords, Social Media, Email Marketing
  • Offline: Events and marketing collateral
  • Marketing automation tools
  • Partnerships

 
Product costs at Signority

36% or $0.36

To ensure that we continue to build a solid product that makes our lives simpler and greener, we go through various stages — research, development, implementation and improvement. Security is at the heart of this and the implementation of Digital Signatures last year was a big part of it. We’re now the easiest and most secure platform for document signing!
 
Talents and Salaries at Signority

45% or $0.45

Adding and keeping talent is crucial to our growth, so, the largest part —or $0.45 — of every dollar goes to building and maintaining a happy and hardworking team. We invest in our culture, training programs and more to ensure our staff is capable, responsible and above all engaged in our vision to deliver an outstanding experience to our customers.
Over the next few months, we will be diving deeper into our accounts and further breaking down all of these categories mentioned above and continue to live up to our promise of transparency.

We would love to know what you think about our transparent pricing, write to us at hello@signority.com or leave us a comment below.

Customer Experience is Taking Center Stage in 2017 and for Good Reason

Sprint 46 Release Notes

Customer experience is taking center stage in 2017 and for good reason. People expect a good customer experience whether buying online or offline. More and more statistics from all industries reflect CX (or Customer Experience) is becoming center stage of business and customer loyalty. In their article titled “75 Customer Service Facts”, HelpScout shares some eye-opening realities of customer service and total customer experience.
As we know, great CX goes beyond customer support, it includes everything from the time people see your ad for the first time online, to your website, to interaction with your sales team, to contract signing, customer onboarding and ongoing support throughout the lifecycle.
No one realizes this reality more than the retail industry which over the last few years has seen retailers acknowledge that good customer experience is the path to higher profit. Smart retailers are investing heavily in optimizing customer experience as online shopping is no longer enough; customers want to check store inventory online, order online and pick up at the nearest store. Customers want the mobile experience to match that in the store, they want a single cohesive experience, and retailers are just starting to deliver with omni-channel projects. Forrester released a report last year that demonstrates that CX leaders grow revenue as much as 25% than CX laggards in their category, this again shows the proven importance of customer experience.
Convenience is king and so is speed, from same day to delivery to drone-based delivery, retailers are pushing the edge to make sure customers get the wow factor every time they experience their brand. On the run, no problem, Amazon Go allows you to get your grocery without talking to anyone, load up your basket and walk out, you card is signed, sealed and delivered automatically.
This week is #NRF17 where world of retail converges on the Javits center in New York to talk about the future of retail, and again the customer experience is center stage. Wearable technology, Smart Technology, Artificial Intelligence are prominent themes this year.
There is a lot we can learn from retail, but the core lesson is that customers want an easy and frictionless experience, all the time.

Here are 5 simple ways other industries can improve their customer experience:

  1. Test every customer touch point to make sure it works and that is inline with your brand promise. Tools like UserTesting and 5SecondTest are great for getting quality feedback from people in your target audience.
  2. Automate. Right now there is an explosion of online tools to help you service customers and reduce errors. Make it easy for them, implement things like Intercom on your website for better communication, Slack channels or even venture into smart chat bots.
  3. If you are billing online, make sure it’s done right and easy. I recommend trying FreshBooks.
  4. Make sure you make the most out of your CRM. We at Signority use and love Pipedrive. Use your CRM well along with other tools and plugins to empower you to know what to say and when to say it. These tools not only help save you time and be more productive, it also ensures a better CX in the sales process.
  5. Use smart signatures. Businesses sometimes do not think of contract signing as being part of the CX, although in our humble opinion it is still a big part of it. Think about it, after all the hard work by marketing and sales is done, and a prospect is in the last stages of closing the deal. You want to make sure you have a process in place that makes it easy and convenient for them (while also secure). Offering a paperless contract signing experience is what we do best and I encourage you to read some of our other posts on this blog to learn more.

Must-Know: 20+ Tools and Hacks to Reduce Sales Admin Work & Improve Sales Productivity

20 tools for reducing sales admin work and increasing productivity

While reviewing our own sales tech stack here at Signority to find more opportunities for automation and workflow simplification, we chatted with our new friends at SalesWings to pick their brain. That turned into a very comprehensive list they were kind enough to share with us, and you below. So, read on and start making your sales team a lot more productive this new year!
The working day of a sales professional is always too short, and sometimes it can feel like there’s not enough time to, well, sell! Indeed, a 2015 study by Cirrus Insight showed that sales professionals spend less than half of their time selling. This statistic was also confirmed by Alice Heiman, founder and Chief Sales Officer of sales consulting and coaching firm Alice Heiman LLC.
It’s an egg-and-chicken situation: sales professionals need to sell more, but they have too many other tasks that prevent them devoting more time to selling. So, the first step to boosting sales professionals’ productivity is to automate basic admin tasks. This will give sales professionals more time to actually sell.  
Below are some tips and tools to help sales professionals spend less time on admin and more time selling.

Schedule time you want to dedicate to administration

First of all, sales professionals should schedule administrative blocks outside of calling hours, in the same way they schedule all other tasks such as meetings with clients. Nevertheless, David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says that if a task requires less than 2 minutes of your attention, then you should do it. Getting quick and easy tasks out of the way immediately can benefit your productivity measurably.

Use a sales-oriented CRM

There is no doubt that CRM systems can help sales professional stay organized and focused. However, a common complaint sales professionals have is: “CRM is time consuming and reduces selling time”. It has to be said that CRMs are becoming more advanced and intuitive, thus meaning that a greater number of tasks can be automated to save time. For example, Salesforce can automatically update the activity on the contact or lead’s record, meaning there is no need for manual updates.
Three kinds of tools can help to boost your CRM:

  1. Tools that allow to you synchronize your email (Outlook or Gmail) with a CRM.

    Salesforce: Salesforce is probably the most well-known CRM. It has a huge eco-system of partner apps for all possible aspects like contact “hygiene” (check RingLead), email marketing (try Sendloop), a handy lead scoring system (Saleswings add-on) and even Gamification (Ambition). For instance, all you have to do is go to the AppExchange to find 1,000s of tools that allow sync between email and Salesforce. One of our favorites is ZynBit, which also delivers excellent customer analytics.
    Pipedrive: a CRM and pipeline management tool which focuses on key features for sales and a visible pipeline view. Pipedrive syncs perfectly with Gmail and Outlook, so that your team never need enter a contact twice. Pipedrive as Salesforce also integrates with several tools such as Saleswings lead scoring add-on for Pipedrive.
    Nimble: Nimble is a social CRM that updates your entire contact database thanks to great integrations with all social channels. “No data entry”! At Saleswings, we are also fans of their mobile app which offers great usability and provides “social insights” for each contact you’re planning to meet. Nimble uses third-party integration: PieSync. PieSync allows you to integrate Gmail & Outlook contacts within Nimble. That means that all your email contacts can be synchronized with Nimble contacts.

  2. Tools to synchronize your CRM and business cards

    A great tool that works with all the most popular CRM is FullContact. FullContact works with Zapier to import business cards into various CRM tools, and can automatically capture contacts from email signatures. All sales professionals have to do is keep sending emails and contact data entry gets automated. This is a huge time saver. FullContact is more than just a business card synchronizer. It is an address book hub that allows you to synchronize your contacts across multiple social media accounts. It keeps contacts up to date (picture, company, email address) and most importantly removes duplicates. Another good and popular alternative is MagneticOne Business Card Reader. As with FullContact, you can Snap a photo of the business card and it will import all the data directly into the CRM. 

  3. Tools to remove duplicate data in your CRMs

    Duplicate data is a pain in the neck for all CRM users. The consequences range from multiple spacing from inaccurate reports to taking the wrong decision due to inaccurate metrics. Unfortunately, there is no miracle! Duplicates are part of sales life; leads submit forms and sales teams input manual entries. The solution is to use tools that detect and eliminate duplicates automatically. For instance, RingLead and Data Cleanser detect and eliminate duplicates within Salesforce.

Avoid falling into the email trap

Email is the most important means of communication for most sales people (apart from their phones). However, salespeople shouldn’t be sucked into email administration.
Five kinds of tools can support a sales professional’s email productivity:

  1. Email tracking and lead scoring

    Saleswings is a fully automated add-on for advanced Lead Activity Scoring. Sales professionals send an email (Outlook or Gmail) with a link to the website and Saleswings identifies the most sales-ready leads based on their website activity as well as scoring their level of engagement/interest. The Saleswings lead scoring add-on also works with campaign tools such as MailChimp, forms and CRM such as Salesforce and Pipedrive. It automatically notifies the sales team about a lead’s interest, acting as an opportunity radar. This allows the sales team to focus their resources and time on the hottest leads.

  2. Email templates

    Here at Saleswings, we use Gorgias. Gorgias allows you to insert templates with shortcuts. and includes variables like the recipient’s name or the subject.

  3. Email personalization tools

    To personalize emails and avoid spending too much time looking for information about the prospect, I would advise salespeople to use Crystal, Charlie and Datanyze.
    CrystalCrystal can tell you what to write in an email or how to create a message that engages the person in a way they’d expect from you.
    CharlieCharlie synchronizes with Google Calendar and sends you a one-page resume on everyone you’re going to meet with, before you see them.
    DatanyzeDatanize has many incredible features, but one of the most unique is knowing which technologies your prospects are using. It is important to know if your prospect is using your competitor’s software or software that integrates with your own.

  4. Tools to keep track of time spent on emails and online in general

    There are a variety of time tracking tools available today, from those targeting time spent on a particular project to those tracking time spent on a particular activity online, such as emailing, blogging, micro-blogging, browsing, or just plain social networking. Two good tools are RescueTime and TwentyFive.
    RescueTimeRescueTime not only informs you about your daily activities but also allows you to set the number of hours you want to spend in a day on a particular site. RescueTime will alert you if you run out of time.
    TwentyFivethe main idea behind TwentyFive is to record your time using the Pomodoro Technique.

  5. Electronic signature solution to simplify & automate contract signing

    The advantages of an e-signature are evident for anyone who has ever had to deal with a paper-based signature. The latter involved a lot of paper waste and back-and-forth between the person that needed to sign and the company. Hugely time consuming!
    Thanks to electronic signatures, deals are closed faster and there is less administration involved. Signority is a great example of an electronic signature tool which offers the ability among many other things to let your sales team send a contract out and set automatic follow-up email reminders as well as notifications when your client has opened, viewed and signed the contract. This is incredibly important as following up during these key events can help lose or close many deals.

Optimize your route when visiting clients

Clients are often located in different parts of the city or country, so salespeople need to spend time organizing their day and scheduling visits. One hell of a job! However, there are tools such as Badger Maps that make field sales reps’ lives easier. Badger Map puts the user’s territory on a map on their device, showing them where their customers are and offering new leads that they didn’t know about. Basically, what it does is connect into the CRM and give reps access to the data in the CRM on a map, when they are out in the field.

In conclusion, reducing administrative work is essential to allow sales professionals to do their job – selling. Using just some of the apps above will allow you to cut your admin time. The real secret is to go digital, and to use a more digital approach.

About the author

The author Sara is a digital marketing specialist at Saleswings, a website tracking and lead scoring add-on. The software identifies your most sales-ready leads based on their website activity. It analyzes your leads’ past and future visits and scores their level of engagement/interest.

5 Habits of Highly Effective Insurance Brokers

insurance-brokers-electronic-signatures-digital

Do you use electronic signatures (eSignatures) for insurance?
Do you have the right contacts?
Are you on the right way to be the best insurance broker in the business?
As with any other profession, there are habits and best practices an insurance broker has to acquire in order to be on the top. I developed mine while working in the Canadian insurance industry for over 7 years, and I’d like to share them with you.
We all know that highly effective brokers use certain tactics to inspire confidence in their prospective clients to convince them on their choice. Which of them do you need to make a habit? Let us see!

1. Get yourself a good backup system

Whether it be the company you work for, your assistants or mentors, make sure that you have solid help to fall back on in challenging situations.
If you’re pressed for time, your eSigning service and means of communications should be ready for you. When what you need most is advice, your mentors should be there, and in cases where the key to getting a good deal is contacts and acquaintances then you should know where to go to get it.

2. Stay organized

Albert Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
To me a cluttered desk means an organized mind. While this may be true only for a few people, what is most important is that you get a system working for you.
Take your Post-It’s out, get some cheerfully colored highlighters, use bookmarks, red threads and pins, whatever works. Make sure you feel comfortable navigating this system and you’re set. What worked for me was getting all unnecessary items out of the way. I got my office paperless, automated my assistants and did most money transactions online. The time-saving was considerable and infinitely helpful.  

3. Stay up-to-date

If you want to crush the competition, the key is to know it well. Go to trade organizations, keep up with the latest news, know what you’re doing inside and out. Attending industry events will not only give you valuable insights, but also make you friends in the right places, and that is also highly beneficial for business.
Don’t forget to keep notes on what standard practices everyone around you is following. While some of them may end up not being right for you, you can learn from them. If electronic signatures for insurance or TeamViewer is a popular choice, then there might be a reason for this. Conducting meetings over Skype is saving your competitor money? Try it out!

4. Cross-sell

One of the best qualities an insurance agent should have is the ability to cross sell products to customers. Remember that just about everyone needs more than one policy; combining homeowner’s or renter’s insurance with car or life insurance. Getting clients to buy additional products or services is key to maximizing profits and offering your customers a good deal.
Don’t skip on offering a bundle of products instead of just one policy. If they agree on a deal like this then good for you, if they don’t, then you’ve just done some publicity for another of your products.

5. Follow-up

Follow-up.
Your clients will notice, potential buyers and colleagues will appreciate it.
According to Follow Up Success, even though, 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact, nearly 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect.
Don’t hesitate on the follow-up. Send your customer or potential a personalized thank you note. Even if you didn’t land the deal at first, keep the interests of your prospective client at heart and drop them a line in case you can fix something up for them, it can become a successful arrangement in the future. Establishing good relationships with clients and colleagues alike can become a good foundation for growing your business.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.